When President Bill Clinton decided to crack down on Columbian cartel money being laundered in the States the cartels chose London as their preferred destination. The Russian Mafia have also propped up the UK economy by millions. Banks have demonstrated uncharacteristic naivety about practices that must range from low level smurfing, where money is filtered by ‘smurfs’ through a series of accounts in small amounts, lying beneath the threshold that demands investigation. Or perhaps the banks were unaware they were about to get smacked hard. One leading financial expert recently stated that if all criminal money was pulled out of the city London would face a major financial crisis. Criminality and the economy, crime and legality, form an interesting relationship.
Michel Serres in ‘The Parasite’ analyses the nature of parasitism in society, anthropology, biology and information theory. He writes:
‘Man is a louse for other men. Thus man is a host for other men. I call this semiconduction, this valve, this single arrow, this relation without a reversal of direction, “parasitic”….To parasite means to eat next to.’
Serres shows that the parasite disrupts a system of exchange: the organism that feeds off its host:
‘Power is invisible; it is the white domino. It is the joker, multivalency…. How does the parasite take hold? He tries to become invisible.’
If the city of London is the host to criminal parasitism it is a relationship that reveals much about the economy. Parasitism and crime are themes I have explored.
In my new novel, One Lost Summer, Rex Allen moves into a new neighbourhood in a heat wave and becomes obsessed by his beautiful next door neighbour, Evangeline Glass. He begins spying on her, remaining invisible while he finds out what he needs to in order to blackmail her into playing a game of identity. Rex is the white domino who infects Evangeline’s life with his watchfulness. He asks her to meet him once a week for two hours and act out the part of Coral:
‘Evangeline tried to reclaim herself as the sunshine denied any reprieve in the heat. And Coral grew inside her like a seductive parasite.’
Rex’s crimes are not of the obvious kind. One Lost Summer deals with identity, and Evangeline may not be the woman she claims to be, as Rex believes. Or she may become her alter ego, Coral, that person locked away inside her and the elusive thing called memory. The crimes are hard to determine and arguably of a subjective nature in a narrative that shifts perspective as the truth unfolds. To establish guilt one has to reach a verdict and the novel doesn’t allow the reader to do that until the end. Rex may be a victim, while Evangeline would say he preys on others. Harry, her husband, a man with a criminal past, may say the novel is about lying and liars. Coral, who may be a figment of Rex’s imagination, may say it is about reality and how easy it is to manipulate it. Who Coral is remains one of the key questions of the novel, but so does the extent to which identity is determined by the way we believe we are perceived by our social circle.
The parasite is invisible. It is the unknown ingredient in a situation in which you may be the host. Truth may be the first casualty of crime. I am talking about the criminal intent before the act. Rex says he didn’t plan the things he did that summer. His obsession is clear to him:
‘Obsession is not a modern disease. Its roots lie deep inside humanity and may be the reason we’re here. You don’t know you’re obsessed until you can’t move, until all you see is the one thing. By then the tendrils have wrapped themselves around your unsuspecting heart. They’re delicate at first in their unfolding, touching you in the dark, like the soft caress of a lover at dawn. Then you know they’re squeezing the blood out of you. And you realise you will have to hack them away, and with them some living beating part of yourself to be free.
Stars have a rare quality, an ability to take away the smallness most men feel. They’re more corrupt than us, but the corruption is better hidden, and their appeal is a lie, the biggest drug you will ever know.
Evangeline was a complete balance of all the qualities famous stars have. She knew she was a rare flame.
All that summer I watched her. I caught her laughing, smiling, looking away from Harry, alone, contemplating her day. I took her with shopping bags on the empty drive next door, and I filmed her sunbathing by the pool, her body tanned and glowing in the unnatural sun that seemed to set that time apart. For she seemed to exist outside time. And I captured her and made her mine.
I spent my evenings with a glass of Montrachet chilling my tongue as I sipped her image from the Plasma screen in my living room. I fed on her. The X bridged the space between us. I zoomed in on her, caressing her skin with the lens. I entered her world like a hummingbird penetrating a flower, my heart beating like rapid wings. She existed in my watchfulness and awoke my desire. When I wasn’t filming her, time was static. There were no clocks in The Telescope. I felt erased when I wasn’t watching her image. My house had no past and no future.
I tidied away unpacked boxes, placing them in cupboards. I never used most of the rooms, existing in solitude, with only the films I took. And I felt more and more that I was part of a plot, and my only defence against it was the camera, as if Evangeline and Harry knew things that they were keeping from me and the X would find them out.’
Rex films Evangeline with a movie camera called the Mysterium X. His behaviour alters her, and in doing so it may criminalise her. She may be the subject of a study in how to raise the criminal inside a person who is otherwise law-abiding. She may also be hiding her own nature from herself. Rex may understand more about his dark side, or less, than the others, depending on how you interpret the level of his conviction. Harry certainly knows how to use violence to reach his goals.
There are many different ways of approaching crime as a writer. I have written about crime in London in different contexts. Mr. Glamour, my second novel, focuses on the criminal activities of the wealthy London elite while a serial killer picks them off. The nature of parasitism in it is indeterminate until the ending when it is disclosed who the ultimate host is.
Apostle Rising, my first novel, is about a serial killer who is crucifying politicians. He is recreating the murder scenes of an old case while the original suspect plays mind games with the police. The relationship that exists between the killer and the detective in charge of the case is a parasitic one, that exists in a curious state of tension that is only broken at the end, when there is a shocking revelation.
One Lost Summer is perhaps the most subversive of my novels in its take on what a criminal mind many be. And I have let Rex tell you the story for a simple reason which is made clear at the end. If a Noir novel because it is obvious that serious mistakes are going to be made by the central characters. But the nature of those mistakes is not obvious.
One Lost Summer is available at all good retailers and online at
The Book Depository http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/One-Lost-Summer-Richard-Godwin/9780956711342
You can find out more about me at my website: http://www.richardgodwin.net/
You may also be interested in my Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse, my highly popular and unusual interviews with other authors which can be found at my blog http://www.richardgodwin.net/blog
My first novel Apostle Rising has been selling foreign rights throughout Europe. In it a serial killer is crucifying politicians and recreating the murder scenes of an old case. It is available as a paperback here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Apostle-Rising-Richard-Godwin/dp/0956711308
Mr. Glamour, my second novel, is a dark satire of the glitz of the glamour set. It is about a circle of wealthy people whose addiction to designer goods brings them to the attention of a killer who is obsessed with brands.
It is available here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Glamour-Richard-Godwin/dp/0956711332